The holidays are often a busy and stressful time. In the midst of the busyness, we can also find ourselves stressed-out and attending an increasing number of parties, get-togethers, pot lucks, etc. If you are attempting to chase or maintain fitness or nutrition goals, the time constraints and abnormal eating situations can make this increasingly difficult. So what do you do?
It seems to be human nature to just throw our hands up in the air, throw all goals out the window, and just go off the rails. Now I am not saying it is NOT okay take a break. It is actually beneficial to take training breaks. And I actually do not condone trying to adhere to strict eating rules at all times in all situations (with the exception of people needing diet restrictions for medical conditions). This restrictive behavior can be disordered. BUT there are several things you can do to help you navigate this season without feeling out-of-control.
1. Ditch the all or nothing thinking.
Thinking we have to eat perfectly, follow our training plan 100%, nail every workout, etc. can set us up for failure. This is black-or-white thinking, perfectionism, and just unrealistic (and not just at this time of year but all the time). Set goals, have plans, but if things don't go as you would wish or wanted, don't spiral into negative or fatalistic thinking. You're human. Let it go, look ahead, and make the next best decision you can.
2. Don't skip meals or restrict to try and save up calories for later or to make-up for an event.
Eating regular consistent meals helps regulate digestion, reduce GI symptoms, maintains energy levels, and will prevent raging hunger later that can lead to binge eating or overeating. If you happen to have a meal or event where you do overeat or eat more than expected, shake it off and approach your next meal as you normally would. You do not have to force yourself to eat everything as you normally would, but do not intentionally restrict to make-up for things consumed previously.
3. Aim for balanced meals most of the time (remember rule #1, it doesn't have to be 100% of all meals, but at most opportunities). A balanced meal of carb or starch foods + protein + color (veg & fruit) will help meet your nutritional needs, maintain energy levels, keep you satisfied, and can also help prevent binge eating or feeling out-of-control around food later.
4. Drink your water.
This seems very basic but it can be hard to stay on top of meeting your hydration needs when the weather is cold, mainly because our thirst isn't as intense as it is during hotter temps. Drinking water will help reduce bloating, reduce fatigue, reduce headaches, aid in digestion, and help restore fluid balance during a time where you may find yourself drinking alcoholic beverages more frequently.
5. Find a friend or group for support.
The holiday season can be hard for many reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition. The holidays can be hard financially, emotionally, relationally, etc. Finding a friend or group that you can lean on, share your struggles with, run or train with, conquer a common task together like a run streak, or just be honest with about what your feeling, can help you stay on track with whatever goals you may have left in the year.
Jen Scott is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian with close to 20 years of experience in the nutrition field. When she's not helping people conquer their nutrition and health goals, she is drinking coffee, hanging out with her 3 kids, 2 dogs, and husband or training for her next marathon.